J.J. Watt's transition from tight end to defense began as a numbers game. During his sophomore year at Wisconsin, the scout team needed bodies on defense. Watt, who had only played tight end at Central Michigan, lined up and followed directions.
"They just hold up a card and it had a line either straight forward or this way or this way," Watt said, pointing to his left and right. "All I did was run as hard as I possibly could that way."
Watt thinks the simplicity actually helped him. He wasn't overthinking hand placement or technique. He was simply "trying to blow up the play." The real learning of fundamentals began after that.
"From there I started to learn how to use my feet, how to use my hands, how to read things," Watt said. "When I got there, I really didn't know what a three-technique was, what a five-technique was."
Watt has mastered the defensive end position and revolutionized it with where he lines up and his ability to affect each play. He credits much what he knows to Charlie Patridge, former defensive line coach at Wisconsin, now the head coach at Florida Atlantic University.
"I was so fortunate to have Coach Patridge as my defensive line coach because we would meet almost every single day up in offense," Watt said. "He took a lot of time with me when I don't know how many coaches are going to spend as much time as he did with a scout team player that just got there."
On Saturday,Watt was named the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year for the second time in three seasons. With no other nominees, Watt also became the first player to be selected with a unanimous vote.